Outland Review (PSN)

Game Review: Outland (PS3)
Release: 6/14/2011
Genre: 2D Platformer
Developer: Housemarque
Available Platforms: PS3, Xbox360
Players: 1-2 (cooperative)
MSRP: $10.00
ESRB Rating: E

Outland is the story of the chosen hero who, driven by visions of legend, has sought the help of the Pal Kaaba, a Shaman who resides deep in the jungle. Once found, the Shaman tells the tale of the Sisters, one of Light and one of Darkness, who created the world, but now seek its destruction. The time has come for a hero to rise again.

Outland is an action-platformer with a focus on the polarity between light and darkness, represented by the color blue and red respectively.
Switching between light and dark is the key factor behind the game. Being the same color as an obstacle will make you immune to that obstacles energy, but you must be of the opposite color to be able to damage enemies. This makes for the core concept of Outland’s platforming gameplay.

I’ll begin my thoughts in this article by declaring that Outland is a beautiful game. From the time you begin your adventure, up until the ending credits you are in for an eye-candy experience. There isn’t a moment of your adventure where the fluid frame rate and beautiful graphics don’t impress. The soundtrack is well done and works hand in hand with the ancient Mayan feel of the game, making for a very immersive experience as you climb, jump and slide your way through the varying landscapes.

Platforming is the primary focus of the title, and it is well done and, even more important, Fun. Jumping from wall to wall like a flying squirrel never gets old, and movements are fluid and precise, allowing for good control of your character as you literally bounce off the walls.
Combat is second to the game’s platforming, but no less important. Most sections involve a combination of platforming/combat, much along the lines of the Metroid or Castlevania series, but that is where the similarities end.

Constantly switching your character’s color between blue and red is the key to each section (often requiring change mid-flight), which makes for a fun, if not challenging core concept.
Each level provides a variety of challenges and traps that require timing and precision to navigate, with a boss encounter to close out each cluster of levels. Boss fights are where the game really shines. Each boss fight is a completely unique experience from the last, and looks awesome. The first boss fight is a with a Golem, and it is a fun combination of dodging attacks, climbing the Golem itself, doing damage, diving back to the ground and then dodging a multi-colored meteor shower. Awesome stuff.

There are blessed few areas of Outland that I can critique, but those issues are worth noting nonetheless.
There are some boss fights (looking at you Wind Serpent) which come down to a simple war of attrition. If you haven’t spent enough time exploring and collecting health upgrades from hidden shrines, you may not be able to defeat these bosses without significant difficulty.
To add to the frustration, the introduction sequence, the phase before the boss fight even begins, is often long and arduous, and if you are to die during the actual boss fight (which you will), you must restart the entire sequence from scratch, going through the long introduction again and trying to avoid damage until the fight actually starts.

The game itself can get pretty frustrating at times.  For example, some areas have you going through a long section of traps, only to reach the top and get cheap killed by some wandering soldier, forcing you to start the whole section over again. These problems are minimal, but do cause some frustration throughout.

As for the final say, Outland is an awesome game, fully worthy of the $10 dollar price tag. The replay value is pretty high, as you will want to start your journey over, just to collect all the secrets and hidden shrines. (Hint: Mark of the Gods unlock more then just concept art.)
All in all, Outland is an extremely solid game at a good price. If you like action-platform titles, don’t hesitate to pick this up. You won’t regret it.

+Good, solid gameplay experience
+Beautiful game, good music
+Some replay value
+Cheap price tag

-Cheap deaths

Final Score: 8/10

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